: relating to or situated near or on the back especially of an animal or of one of its parts
Did You Know?
The most famous use of "dorsal" is with "fin," whether it conjures the ominous dorsal fin of sharks or the benign, even benevolent, image of porpoises and dolphins. Less well-known is the botanical sense of "dorsal," meaning "facing away from the stem" (thus the underside of a leaf can be the dorsal side), or the linguistic sense referring to articulations made with the back part of the tongue (\k\ and \g\, for example). "Dorsal" can be used of non-living things too (in particular, the backs of airplanes), as can its opposite, "ventral," which means "relating to the belly." "Dorsal" descends from Latin "dorsum" ("back"), which also gave us "dossier" (via French, for a bundle of documents labeled on the back) and "reredos" ("an ornamental screen or partition wall behind an altar").
Quick Quiz: What "dorsal" relative means "to write on the back of"? The answer is ...
"I might have identified the bird as a yellow-throated vireo if I'd had more than a dorsal view," explained Roger.
"The sleek, rounded head of an orca breaks the surface, tall black dorsal fin trailing behind." -- From an article by Cassandra Brooks in The Seattle Times, September 2, 2010
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